Art hosts preview for “On Angels’ Wings”

Seniors Kayla Gibbons and Julia Kurtz.

On November 3 the library and art department collaborated to host a reading and pre-order event for the student-made book, On Angels’ Wings, inspired by and benefiting the children of Malayaka House in Entebbe, Uganda. Seniors Kayla Gibbons and Julia Kurtz, junior Ashley Huang and sophomore Leili Tavallaei gave readings of the pieces they have written for the project to the audience.

On Angels’ Wings is a continuation of the Message in a Bottle project started last year by AP, IB and Advanced Art classes. After seeing a slideshow presented by photographer Justin Calhoun, art students were inspired to work with the orphans of Malayaka House by collecting bottles to mail to Uganda, which were returned with the children’s wishes inside. The students then created artwork inspired by the wishes to auction off and raise money for the orphanage.

“The Message in a Bottle project inspired individuals to create a book so that the artwork wouldn’t be just sold and forgotten,” Mrs. Schiebel said. “We thought, ‘You know, ok, we were inspired by words, we made the artwork, what if we made the book?’”

The reading and preview on November 3 included a reading from author Linda Beeman, a writer whose works inspired a Message in the Bottle piece auctioned last year by Cesar Gomez and who helped with the inspiration On Angels’ Wings. Beeman read a short story about her own experiences with Malayaka House, which will also be included in the final book. Photographer Justin Calhoun was another guest along with Malayaka House founder Robert Fleming, who told the story of how he came to be involved with the Ugandan orphans and how he would eventually create the orphanage, which started the whole project.

“My poem was about the first girl that was there,” Julia said. “And it was kind of just about her impact on the way Robert Fleming felt. We watched the videos in class and we talked to Robert Fleming first and you really tell, like, how much he cares about it and how much these children needed help and it was just kind of like, the simple act of me writing a poem really helped the organization get off the ground and get more representation across the world.”

The title of Julia’s poem, “Utukufu”, is the Swahili word for “glory”. She explained that she first came across the word when she was working with another charity project a few years earlier and a friend had it tattooed on his arm. Because Swahili is a language widely spoken in Uganda, she said she thought it all came together perfectly that the friend who influenced how she saw charity work could offer inspiration for the Malayaka House work she is doing now with On Angels’ Wings. Charity work and the children of Malayaka House also inspired Kayla to write her poem.

“I’m very into humanitarian work and I wanted to do it just because I feel like not a lot of people know what children are going through, especially in countries that have a lot of poverty,” Kayla said. “My poem is about selfish people that have everything that we need, but how we don’t consider other people when we take advantage of the things that we have.”

After viewing videos on the Malayaka House website, Leili wrote her poem based off a video she saw that featured one of the little boys singing a song. She said that it was really cute, but at the same time it had a deeper meaning. She wanted her poem to be encouraging and thought that the video was a good example of what she wanted to write about.

“It was really the line, ‘We go, we go, Malayaka House we go, no matter what I say, no matter what I do, we go,’” Leili said. “So it’s like, when I was thinking about that, even though they’ve been through a lot of cruddy stuff, they’re still positive. This little boy was laughing on a bus.”

Ashley, an American Voices National Medalist at the Scholastic Art and Writing Awards last year, said that she was unable to participate in the Message in a Bottle project because she was not in a higher-level art class at the time. As an art student now, she was approached by Mrs. Schiebel about writing a piece for On Angels’ Wings because of her background in writing.

“My poem was heavily inspired by the tale of the orphans at Malayaka House as well as my own research into orphanages and the homeless around the world,” Ashley said. “When I was reading about these kids, what all these kids around the world go through, I wasn’t really in the right frame of mind to write something happy. Hopefully it moves people, gets people to consider exactly what’s going on both in America and around the world.”

All students are invited to submit their own pieces, whether it’s a short story or a poem of up to 1,000 words, to the librarians or Mrs. Schiebel by December 1. Publication is planned for March. The project is open to all students, even if they are not in an art class. For inspiration, go to the Malayaka House website,, and more information about On Angels’ Wings can be found at

“Students should submit their writing because, just doing something as simple as that, it really helps the organization and I don’t think people realize how something so little can affect the overall impact,” Julia said. “It impacted me because I’m more aware of the world outside of just where I live, and it really shows, you know, how poverty-stricken other places are and how much I can help doing it and how much I want to get involved in helping.”